Pump Up Songs for Swimmers: How Tunes Can Help You Swim Faster

Michael Butler
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The Science Behind How Music Helps Us Swim Faster

Although swimming is an aerobic sport, it does require fast-twitch muscle movements. To keep you energized and your muscles firing, listen to music with a strong rhythm that’s happy and upbeat. This type of music can help you push through a mental or physical wall. It can also help you swim through pain and exhaustion.

One study showed that music made leg and arm muscles work harder with less fatigue. Other studies have shown that music can accelerate the release of adrenaline, which gives you not only more energy, but can also help you react faster out in the pool.

On the other hand, music that’s too slow, too fast, or too loud can have the opposite effect. Music that’s too fast and loud can distract you from your form and technique, which can result in an inefficiency in your stroke that could slow you down. Music that’s too slow can make you feel lethargic, and you won’t feel the need to work harder to get through distance.

In a study involving younger and older adults, a moderate tempo was found to be the best. Although it didn’t have an effect on the swimmers’ times, it did improve their heart rate, firing, and breathing controls.

What Top Swimmers Use for Pump Up Songs

There’s a lot of debate about whether music or any other form of audio can help or hurt your swimming performance. The best way to test it out for yourself is to try out both types of training sessions and see which works best for you.

Enya is a favorite of many swimmers because it’s very slow and calming and doesn’t have a musical beat. Some feel confident that Enya helps slow their breathing. Other swimmers, however, report that it’s too slow.

Rock music is another popular choice that many swimmers use to pump themselves up. This tends to help swimmers go faster. The downside to rock music is that it might distract you from your form. If you get tired during laps and start focusing on the new song on your playlist instead of keeping a steady rhythm, the rock music may have done more harm than good.

Some swimmers who are particularly demanding and high-maintenance may do well with only their own thoughts for company. If you’re like this, a fast-paced, positive song can help you get going. Others who need a little more quiet may find themselves happy with little more than their own thoughts.

How to Use Music to Swim Faster and Get Pumped Up

If you’re a swimmer, then you know how important it is to get pumped up before a race. Not only does the right song choice get you hyped, but you also become more aware of your breath and your body when you’re excited. The right song can help you perform to the best of your abilities. At the US National Championships, American swimmer Missy Franklin used music to help her win the 200 meter freestyle event.

When you get in the swimming pool, you don’t simply fall into a rhythm. It’s almost like you need to put on a little show to get yourself psyched up to swim. You can play with different moves to get in the right spirit. You can even do goofy poses like the “shark attack” that Michael Phelps famously did in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Music can help you get in the mood to perform and get you pumped up for the swim.

Although composing your own playlist is a good idea, you can also look for other swimmers’ shared playlists on Spotify for inspiration. Here’s a playlist of the songs that freestyle US Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky likes to listen to before her swim.

My Personal Pump-Up Playlist for Swim Practices

I have been asked many times for advice on creating a good playlist for swim practices. My playlist has changed a lot throughout the years but I always have a list of songs that pumps me up and helps with focus.

Here’s are some of the songs that I used to listen to when I was practicing swimming in the morning as well as some of the songs I use today. The list is long because the list of songs that gets me pumped is long. I think that’s one of the reasons why there are so many “best pump up song” lists. Music can help get you excited and help you go the extra mile.

I’ve also included links where you can listen to a few of the songs on the playlist.

My playlist is mostly for me since I only swim for fitness. I usually throw it on very loud and let it go. I have heard some competitive swimmers use white noise to help them focus but I haven’t tried that yet.

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